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In the documentary A Billion Lives, director Aaron J. Biebert says that the United Nations has projected the death of a billion people due to smoking in this century. That’s 10 million deaths a year, or if you need something to compare that figure to, one-seventh of the world’s current population.
According to a 2015 factsheet on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website, tobacco kills about 6 million people every year – most of them direct users, while a small fraction are non-smokers who have been exposed to second-hand smoke.
And yet, for some reason the WHO, specifically its director Dr Margaret Chan, has called for a ban on vaping, which has been shown to be an effective smoking cessation tool. At the same time, no such ban has been called on smoking, which has been proven to be harmful.
Over the last few months, vaping has gotten a bad rep, largely due to the media reporting statements such as these, which other trusted health leaders have echoed in some way as well.
It was this that made Biebert realize that he had to “speak to the public” about what vaping really is and how it can save the lives of those we love.
“I decided to make this film when I realized I was lied to by the media and by trusted health leaders (WHO, Centers for Disease Control, etc.) and that the public was being deceived in a systematic way.
“I don’t want to live in a world where people are denied the information they need to make healthier choices. People are choosing to go back to smoking because of these lies. These leaders are sending people to an early death.
“It must be stopped,” he said in an email to VapeClubMY.
His production team, which consists of about six people (not including those producing the music), travelled through the United States, Europe and South America, as well as interviewed people in Australia and South Africa in order to get the information required.
More than just information, Biebert said that he also “wanted the film to be beautiful and timeless”.
“We shot the whole film in 4K UltraHD for theaters, including 8K resolution timelapses around the world. Filming took place in the USA, France, Belgium, Canada, United Kingdom, Ireland, Poland, Turkey, Mexico, and Peru.
“Besides people in those countries, we also interviewed people from Australia, South Africa, Spain, and other locations,” he said.
His team spent about a year on collecting the materials needed to put the film together. The first three months were put into research, while the next nine months involved travelling and filming.
“We got our information from some of the most well respected doctors and scientists in the field, as well as other journalists who had been researching the topic,” said Biebert.
Some of the experts interviewed include Clive Bates (Former Director, Action on Smoking and Health), Dr Derek Yach (Former Executive Director, WHO) and Dr Delon Human (Former CEO, World Medical Association). All of them agree that vaping could be a public health solution.
When asked about notable discoveries made during the making of the film, Biebert said that he learned that giant organizations (big pharma, big tobacco, big charity etc) were “able to change the minds of the public quite easily using modern PR tactics”.
It’s ironic that in some cases, big tobacco seems to be overly concerned about the health of those who use e-cigarettes, calling for more stringent regulations or including significantly longer warning statements on their e-cigarette products.
According to an article in Reuters titled When it comes to e-cigs, Big Tobacco is concerned for your health, the “health warning on a MarkTen electronic cigarette package is 116 words long”, which is much longer than any warning on traditional cigarette packs in the US.
The statement includes strong warnings about nicotine, even going as far as to state that ingredients can be “poisonous”. It’s interesting to note that MarkTen’s parent company, Altria, is also the maker of Marlboro cigarettes.
Biebert says that there is a need for a voice on the other side and he hopes that A Billion Lives will be part of that voice.
“The only way to hold people accountable for the truth is to have an equally powerful voice on the other side. The truth is hurting right now,” he said.
In Malaysia, besides government regulations, we also face opposition towards vaping from religious leaders. According to Biebert, this was “somewhat unique in the world”.
For the film to be shown in Malaysia, there needs to be a show of support.
“Sign up for emails at http://ABillionLives.com and share the teaser from the A Billion Lives Facebook page. The more people we have showing support, the more theaters it’ll be in around the world,” said Biebert.
“Going into this project, my main goal was that it must speak to the public. We didn’t want to target vapers or scientists, who already know, but the mother who is skeptical of her son who is now vaping instead of smoking or to friend who teases his buddy for vaping when he’s trying to quit smoking.
“It is hard to quit smoking. Most vapers I’ve met are just trying to save their lives. We all need to support them,” he said.
Director: Aaron Biebert
Producers: Shem Biebert, Jimi Jake Shaw, Jennifer Biebert
Associate Producers: Colin Wilcox, Caleb M. Pearson
Music by: Steven Pitzl with Timothy Wolf, Antics, Hemispheres & The Royal
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